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RISKS IN SHARING BREAST MILK

There are potential risks in sharing breast milk, warned gynaecologist Yong Tze Tein.

In particular, there is a concern of the spread of infectious diseases, such as HIV, through breast milk, said Dr Yong, a senior consultant at Singapore General Hospital's department of obstetrics and gynaecology.

But she noted that the risk of infection from a single bottle of breast milk from a HIV-positive mother is small.

Experts have long recommended breastfeeding till the child is 12 months old and thereafter as long as mother and child desire.

BENEFITS

Benefits include optimum nutrition, as the composition of breast milk is constantly changing to meet the baby's nutritional needs, and protection against a range of health issues such as diarrhoea, lung and ear infections and allergies.

Studies have shown that breastfed children have lower blood pressure and total cholesterol, as well as a reduced risk of obesity and diabetes later in life.

Unlike countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Australia, Singapore does not have a regulated milk bank.

Dr Yong, who is also the president of the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy, thinks that a public milk bank is not feasible at the moment because of supply and demand.

"Having a milk bank is definitely safer. (But) it is not feasible at the moment because our breastfeeding rates, although improving, are not that high yet.

"It is expensive to run because donors need to be screened and proper pasteurisation and storage are necessary."